Monday, October 7, 2019

Interviewing Diahann Carroll 

It sometimes feels to me like the end of an era when someone famous dies. I felt that way upon hearing of Diahann Carroll’s death this year on October 4. News reports of her death brought in a flood of memories and I emphasize memories.

It seems like ages ago that I was a college student at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and truthfully, it was ages ago. As a sophomore at the university I volunteered, as one of my extracurricular activities, to report for my college newspaper, which was called The Hilltop.*

Diahann Carroll was in the city doing several evening shows at a major hotel. So, I suggested to Michael Thelwell, The Hilltop’s editor in chief,**  that we feature Carroll in The Hilltop. He agreed that I would write the article. I don’t really remember whom I contacted to get the interview. But, several days later I had an interview with Carroll. We had a late morning meeting in her hotel room, and to my knowledge, there was no one there, but the two of us.

It’s amazing to me now, looking back that, here she was, a well-known star, and she agreed to an interview with me, a college student, in her hotel room.

I don’t remember what she wore, but I do remember that she had a slight amount of light blue eyeshadow on. At the time, I thought that eyeshadow was only worn at night, so I assumed her makeup was from her performance the night before and she hadn't taken her makeup off.  What did I know? I was 17 and not at all worldly-wise.

I pulled out my pad and pencil and the interview was underway. The interview lasted less than an hour, during which time, she was warm, soft-spoken and very gracious and, she answered all of my questions. I learned that her real name was Carol Diahann Johnson, which was something of a surprise, since my maiden name is also Johnson.

My interview with her took place at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. She expressed optimism about race relations in the U.S. and pointed to her own career and her interracial marriage as indicators that things in America were changing and that doors for African Americans were opening.

I had a camera with me and asked her if I could take a picture of her for the article. She told me that it would be better if she sent me one. I was relieved, because being such a newbie at taking photos professionally, I wasn’t really sure how the photo would turn out.

I thanked her for the interview and that was the end of it, except for the fact that I did get the photo several weeks later. It was a headshot and I still remember what she looked like in the photo. The photo arrived after my article was published, and being the collector that I am, who throws few things away, I might still have it, along with the article that I wrote about her.

I’ve never really thought of my interview with Diahann Carroll until now. I am just thrilled that she accorded me the time. I walked away from the interview feeling that the sky was the limit. Perhaps, the interview I had with her played a role in my being selected that year by the Hilltop staff as “The Outstanding Newcomer of the Year.”

It’s said that she was the first African American actress in a major role, in a movie or play, who was not cast as a servant or as subservient in some way.

Through her accomplishments, Diahann Caroll showed that the sky can be the limit. Thank you, Diahann, for being a real role model in many ways.

* The Hilltop,  Howard University's award-winning student-run newspaper, was co-founded in 1924 by Zora Neale Hurston and  Louis Eugene King. In 2005, it became the first the first HBCU newspaper to be published daily. See the paper's website at 

** Among his many accomplishments, Michael Thelwell became the founding chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
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Monday, May 27, 2019

A Bill to Save Lives

Courtesy of

Are you aware that there is a bill going through the California State Assembly that needs your support? The bill - AB 392: The California Act to Save Lives – redefines the circumstances under which police officers in the state can use deadly force. Currently, police officers can kill a person even when they have available options other than the use of lethal force.

AB 392 limits the power of police officers to use deadly force and gives them the authority to use deadly force only when they don’t have other options. AB 392 was introduced in February 2019 by California Assembly members Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarthy in response to the murder of Stephon Clark in Sacramento and the recent murders of other young black men at the hands of the police.

The bill is expected to be voted on in the California State Assembly by the end of this month.
AB 392 amends California Penal Code (CPC) section 196 (Justifiable Homicide by a Peace Officer) and CPC 835a (Authority to Use Force) and enacts a new standard for police officers to follow before they use their guns. Read the complete bill here.

Unlike AB 931, an earlier bill, which was also authored by Assembly members Weber and McCarthy for the purpose of restricting police officers’ use of deadly force, that was defeated by the law enforcement community, AB 392 recently gained the backing of key law enforcement groups.

You can see several of the supporters of AB 392 discuss the impact that police shootings have had on their lives and on their family members in this Talking with Henrietta television show called, Getting a Male Perspective. The show was taped on May 23, 2019 and can be seen in its entirety here.

While AB 392 establishes separate standards for non-lethal force, lethal force and non-lethal use of force resulting in an in-custody death, it also allows for an officer to be charged with manslaughter if a mistake is made, for example, in “situations in which the victim is a person other than the person that the peace officer was seeking to arrest, retain in custody, or defend against, or if the necessity for the use of deadly force was created by the peace officer’s criminal negligence.”

AB 392 is supported by such organizations as the ACLU CA, Alliance for Boys an Men of Color, Anti Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter, CA, CA Faculty Association, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) , PICO (Faith in Action), CA, Silicon Valley DeBug, United Domestic Workers of America (UDW), AFSCME Local 3930, PolicyLink, Youth Justice LA, CA Families United 4 Justice, STOP Coalition

Public protests and concerns over police shootings are making a difference. A second bill, SB 230, which was originally backed by the law enforcement community, “would require each law enforcement agency to maintain a policy that provides guidelines on the use of force, utilizing deescalation techniques and other alternatives to force when feasible, specific guidelines for the application of deadly force, and factors for evaluating and reviewing all use of force incidents, among other things. The bill would require each agency to make their use of force policy accessible to the public. By imposing additional duties on local agencies, this bill would create a state-mandated local program.”

AB 392 was last amended by the Assembly Rules Committee on May 24, 2019 and is expected to be voted on by the full assembly soon. SB 230 was ordered to have a third reading by the CA State Senate on May 16, 2019. Expect a final vote later this month or in early June.

Contact your local state legislators and let them know what you think. Leave your comments below, also. We’d like to know what you think, too.  It is a life and death matter!


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Recognizing Dorothy Gilliam – a Media Pioneer

Dorothy Gilliam sits with Martin Reynolds at the
Kapor Center in Oakland, CA on March 30, 2019.

It is not everyday that one has the chance to hear from people who broke through barriers to become the first in their field. But, such was the case last Saturday, March 30, when the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education held a media event that featured Dorothy Gilliam, the first African-American, female reporter at the Washington Post. The event was called 'A Conversation with Dorothy Gilliam,” and as you might expect, some of the experiences that Gilliam shared were not only informative, but also quite moving. Gilliam discussed some of the challenging experiences she had working at the paper and reporting on some of the civil rights protests that happened in the American south during the height of the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s.

Her appearance Saturday at the Kapor Center in Oakland came at the end of her three-month book tour to promote her new memoir called, “TRAILBLAZER: A Pioneering Journalist’s Fight to Make the Media Look More Like America.” Those of us who attended the event had a chance to ask her questions after the riveting discussion she had with the Maynard Institute’s co-executive director, Martin Reynolds, who moderated the event.
Having a photo taken with Dorothy Gilliam and two of the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media’s board members after her talk, made the event all the more memorable. 

From left, EPACCM board members Elizabeth Jackson, Marie Davis and Henrietta J. Burroughs
stand with Dorothy Gilliam after her presentation at the Kapor Center on March 30, 2019.

You can get more information about Gilliam and her book from her Facebook page at I, definitely, look forward to speaking with Gilliam in the upcoming months on my show, Talking with Henrietta. I’ll keep you posted, when a taping date is near.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Lady Justice Is Not Blind

Lady Justice
Courtesy of

Many in our nation have known for some time that our country has two criminal justice systems: one for the rich and the other for the poor.

This fact was not only highlighted, but also underscored when Paul Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in prison this week – well below the federal guidelines that ranged from 19 to 24 years.

If there were ever a case of sentencing disparity, this is it! How do you give someone life in prison for stealing a slice of pizza or for selling or smoking marijuana (which has happened), and give Manafort less than four years in prison for being convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud?

The scales of justice are skewed.

 Sen. Cory Booker decried the sentence saying, “One of my friends says we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.”

In justifying the light sentence that he handed to Manafort, Virginia Judge T.S. Ellis III said that Manafort had lived “a blameless life,” before committing his crimes.

When you consider some of Manafort’s experiences and how he made his fortune, this was quite a statement (See the East Palo Alto Today editorial – Lessons we can learn from the career of Paul Manafort, on page 4 of the September 2018 issue.).

Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe tweeted, Judge Ellis’s assessment that Manafort led an “otherwise blameless life” was proof that he’s unfit to serve on the federal bench. I’ve rarely been more disgusted by a judge’s transparently preferential treatment to a rich white guy who betrayed the law and the nation.

Given the sentence, Sen. Kamala Harris declared, ‘The justice system is broken in America.”

Through all of this, one important question stands out: If our justice system is broken, what are we doing to fix it?

Whatever we’re doing, Manafort’s sentence shows that we aren’t doing enough!

But all, who are disappointed or distressed by Ellis’ decision, can still take heart. Manafort still faces charges for a different set of crimes. He will soon be sentenced for these crimes by District of Columbia Judge Amy Berman Jackson and he could get another ten years, which is the maximum time to be given, added to his current sentence.

We’ll see on this coming Wednesday, March 13, Manafort’s next court date, the type of sentence he gets from Jackson.

Lady Justice is, obviously, not blind, but how do we enable her to see more clearly?

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Celebrating History and Diversity

East Palo just celebrated Juneteenth, the annual holiday on June 19 that was established to recognize the end of slavery. The actual date, June 19, 1885, marks the time that the slaves in Texas finally learned that they were free, ironically three years after the U.S Civil War had ended on January 1, 1863, with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

The City of East Palo Alto has recognized and celebrated the anniversary for years, almost from the time it was incorporated as a city in 1983 (Coincidentally, on Monday, June 18, 2018, the City of East Palo Alto celebrated its 35th anniversary as a city.).

If you missed East Palo Alto’s celebration of Juneteenth this year on June 16 at the University Circle complex, then you can get a taste of it at the Presidio Trust Picnic, which is taking place this Sunday, June 24. The Presidio Trust will present a variety of cultural and community programs. This month the picnic will feature international cuisine, Afro-Haitian dance performances by the Alafia Dance Ensemble of the City College of San Francisco, a live Zumba lesson led by Gigi Hill-Hopkins, the director of African American holistic wellness at the Bayview YMCA, and food by the Presidio Trust's guest chef, Dimitri Lilavois, who will offer Haitian-Caribbean food from his food-truck Manjé.

This past Monday, June 18, I had the special treat of 
Margaret Casey
interviewing Margaret Casey, the
cultural and community programs manager for the Presidio Trust and Mariella Morales, who is a professor at the City College of San Francisco and the director of the Alafia Dance Ensemble. We had an a very informative discussion about the upcoming Presidio Picnic and the variety of cultural programs the Presidio Trust will offer each month for the rest of this year.
Mariella Morales

You can listen to our discussion by clicking here  or by pressing the arrow on the left under the photo below, if you can see the photo in your browser.

Find out more about the Presidio Trust online at  and at .

Aren’t we, indeed, fortunate that we live in such a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic area that celebrates the diversity of the many cultures around us? 

If you missed the EPA Today article on the award the Presidio received from the U.S. Environmental Agency, you can read it here.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Even District Attorneys Are Not Above the Law

 In October 2014, I produced an episode of Talking with Henrietta, called Crime and Punishment: How Will You Vote? On the show, I talked with three guests: Stacey McGruder, Raj Jayadev and Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson. We discussed the pros and cons of Proposition 47, a measure on the November 2014 California State Ballot that, if approved, would reclassify crimes that were considered felonies as misdemeanors.

Such a reclassification would allow many ex-prisoners, who were convicted as felons to get the felony convictions off their records. Their record clearances would allow them more access to employment, housing opportunities, financial aid and the right to vote. It would also open other doors that were once formerly closed to them.

On the show McGruder and Jayadev argued for the passage of Prop 47, while Petersen argued against it, supporting the idea that the passage of Prop 47 would lead to an increase in crime. In his words, it would “make our neighborhoods and schools less safe.” See the show description on the East Palo Alto Today website here

During the November 2014 election, California voters gave overwhelming support to Prop 47, leading to its passage by a vote of 59.61% to 40.39%

At the time of the show, Peterson was up for reelection as Contra Costa County’s District Attorney and he ran uncontested. 

Well, three years later, as life would have it, in an ironic twist of fate, the California Attorney General’s office charged Peterson with 12 counts of felony perjury and a single count of felony grand theft for allegedly lying on his campaign disclosure forms from 2012 to 2015.

In response to the charges, Peterson, pleaded no contest to a felony perjury charge of using more than $66,000 in campaign funds to make 600 purchases, which included the purchase of jewelry, groceries, various other items and the payment of personal bills.

Immediately, after his plea on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, Peterson was sentenced to three years’ informal probation and ordered to serve 250 hours of community service. After being sentenced, Peterson resigned from office.

Earlier this year, a Contra Costa County grand jury formally accused Peterson of “willful or corrupt” misconduct and initiated proceedings to remove him from office.

Peterson was fined $45,000 by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which ruled that he had “violated California’s political reform act nine times.”

In response to the grand jury findings, the fine and other allegations surrounding Peterson's office,  a petition was posted to, calling for his resignation. The petition garnered 442 votes.

With Peterson’s felony conviction and his resignation from office, it seems only just that public officials, who are sworn to uphold the law, are prosecuted when they commit crimes. What a dramatic fall from grace for Peterson!

Peterson’s case shows that district attorneys are not above the law themselves when they commit crimes. So, is it true that the way you judge others is the way you, yourself, will be judged? Now wouldn’t it be interesting if the felonies Peterson had been charged with had been reclassified as misdemeanors? He, certainly, would not have supported that idea when he was campaigning in 2014. Would he have a change of mind now?

Given his situation today, wouldn’t it be accurate to consider him a convicted felon, who took a plea deal?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

East Palo Alto has a Climate Action Plan

Dealing with Climate Change
Talking with Henrietta - Taped February 13, 2011

The fact that Pres. Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord has disturbed  millions of people throughout the world. It’s somewhat troubling to see that the U. S. now joins only two other countries, Nicaragua and Syria, which are not signatories to the agreement. It is  reported that Nicaragua did not sign the climate agreement because the agreement was not strong enough. Even North Korea has signed it.

In explaining his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, Pres. Trump made his now famous remark that he was elected to "represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris." You can read the complete text of his speech here  on the website. However, Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, PA, issued a statement in which he wrote, “Pittsburgh stands with the world and will follow the Paris agreement.”

The day after making his statement, Peduto issued an executive order stating, “The City of Pittsburgh endorses and remains fully committed to our 2030 objectives, as announced during the Paris summit.”

As of today, 187 U.S. mayors, including Peduto, and 10 state governors denounced Trump’s decision and vowed to uphold the Paris agreement. You can see a partial list of their names here.   

Some U.S. cities already have Climate Actions Plans. It might be surprising to hear that the City of East Palo Alto is one of these cities. In fact, Russell Averhart, the former redevelopment manager for the City of East Palo Alto, wrote the city's Climate Action Plan more than five years ago. He discussed the city's plan on the Talking with Henrietta television show called, Dealing with Climate Change. Averhart appeared on the show on February 23, 2011 with two other guests, artist Michael Killen and NASA scientist Edwin Sheffner. You can see a video excerpt from the show at the top of this column or click here to see it directly on YouTube. 

Of course, now, there are people, who agree with Trump and one such group held a rally across from the White House on Sunday, June 4, 2017, holding signs saying, "Pittsburgh, not Paris." 

So, with whom do you agree, with most of the world or with President Trump and his supporters?